Cybersecurity Is a Team Sport

August 26, 2019
You are the most important part of our security strategy.

It was shocking news. In August, 2017, MacEwan University in Canada reported that it had fallen victim to a phishing attack, losing more than $11.8 million dollars (Canadian) to the perpetrator. Most of the money was traced to accounts in Montreal and Hong Kong, but some was never found. The size of the loss is what makes MacEwan stand out, but the truth is that many institutions are falling prey to phishing and other hacking attempts.

What does Information Services do to help protect the campus? This past July, Network Services upgraded our internet firewall, one of our primary means of defense against attacks. The results? Mike Scioscia, Senior Network Specialist, says that on the first day of classes, between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, the new firewall blocked a total of 6,847,056 attempts to breach our campus network. These were all malicious attacks, aimed at finding a weakness in our systems that would allow a hacker access to University information and resources. Normal network traffic was unaffected.

These connection attempts are just one way hackers try to compromise our systems. Email is another route. This summer, Network Services also upgraded our email spam protection from an open source application to Proofpoint, a professional solution. According to Steve Zinski, Senior Network Programmer, In the week before classes, Proofpoint detected and blocked 1,815,007 email messages - more than 60% of all email directed to the University for the week.

Despite our best efforts, individuals at Richmond have been affected. Just this year, from January 1 through July 15, 75 users had their computers infected with malware; 14 phishing attempts were reported; there were 4 virus infections, and one hacked account. The losses have been nothing like MacEwan, but when it comes to cybersecurity, the entire University of Richmond community needs to actively defend our systems and information.

You contribute to cybersecurity at Richmond. All computers connected to the campus network are required to run Clearpass and Sophos, our current antivirus solution. You can do more: the University pays for every faculty, staff, and student to have a LastPass Premium account. LastPass is a password vault that generates and stores secure passwords for all of your websites and mobile applications. The premium feature in LastPass Premium is the ability to sync your passwords across all of your devices, making it just as easy to log into BannerWeb and other sites on your phone or tablet as it is on your computer. Download LastPass Premium at

Last year, IS Security introduced Duo two-factor authentication for select systems. Two-factor authentication increases your security by requiring two things: something that you know, such as a password and something that you have - like a smartphone - to access accounts. The most notable use of Duo is for access to BannerWeb from off campus. If you’re on the campus network, Duo isn’t required. But if you’re off campus, you’ll be prompted for Duo authentication after you’ve entered your password into the system.

Even with firewalls, spam and virus protection, and two-factor authentication, it’s still possible for hackers to compromise our security. The most important element in securing the University is you. Sophisticated phishing attacks occasionally make it through our security, and find their way to your inbox. What you do with these messages can make all the difference. When you get a message that seems suspicious, examine it carefully to determine if it is authentic. A recent scam that’s been spotted on campus is to have an email that appears to come from a supervisor or colleague, asking you to purchase online gift cards at the last minute. Look at the email address: is it from a address? Are there odd things about the wording of the message, or of the links? If you have questions about a message, please ask by forwarding it to instead of responding.

Shana Sumpter, Direction of Information Security, says “Bad actors have learned that it’s easier to ‘hack the user’ than it is to hack the security controls Information Services has in place.  We all must remain vigilant to protect University resources because cybersecurity is a shared responsibility.